On my drive into work this morning, three people caught my attention, each in a very different way.
The first was a lady in a shiny black luxury sedan of nondescript styling that matches about any late-model luxury car. As I headed down a connecting street at about 35 mph, two lanes going my direction, she pulled out from the left. Within a second it was pretty clear she intended to come into my lane. Still, I realized it too late.
Fortunately, the lady saw me and tightened her turn to get in the left lane, just barely behind me. She would have plowed right into my rear passenger door had she not woke up from whatever stupor had possessed her mind. Maybe the child in the backseat had alerted her. Whatever the reason, she had made my list of memorable characters. When we had to stop and wait to turn onto the main road, I turned back, waited until she looked my way, then held up two fingers an inch apart to indicate she had come that close to hitting me. She seemed to look right through me, expressionless, so I just smiled and turned around.
Next, as I waited in line at a red light, came my other two characters.
Now, I like to sing in the car when something good is playing and it’s in my range. I also slide my windows down when I’m stopped, to let in fresh air. Except, that is, for the front passenger’s window, which will not come back up on its own. Normally I run the vent during the morning drive, because I can bear 75 to 80-degree heat without AC. I run the vent only when moving, because otherwise the smell of the leaking oil that gets blown onto the exhaust system fills the cabin. Combine open windows, full-volume singing, and two lanes full of other commuters with their windows down? Well, you have yourself an audience.
As I approach the waiting cars at each red light, usually I survey the crowd to see what kind of audience I have. This morning was no different. This is when the other two-thirds of the triumvirate entered my awareness.
As I pulled up on her left, I noticed a woman in a Nissan Altima, or something similar. She had her left hand on her forehead, so that her arm blocked my view of her face. The driver’s sun visor was flipped down and Altima stared into its mirror as her right hand moved repeatedly back and forth. I couldn’t see well enough to tell, but I’m pretty sure she was applying eyeliner. Her driver’s window was open, so I could have asked her through the rear right passenger window. I didn’t.
Next I checked my rear-view mirror.
Behind me was a man in a dark blue Ford F100 pickup, just finishing some type of prayer. I couldn’t see the whole movement, but in finishing up, he moved his left hand back and forth in front of his chest before he balled it up and kissed his thumb. Then he closed his eyes just a second as he bowed his head. He raised his head and then gazed out the driver’s window to squint in the morning sun. I thought I saw a hint of the morning breeze in his hair.
That last detail meant that at least two people would hear my singing. A track from Paul Simon’s “Graceland” was playing, and I’ve listened to that CD so much since it came out that I know pretty much every word to every song. That along with the fact that I love the tunes so much tempted me to belt it out. So, with all manner of abandon, I did.
I figured now that I had been given such a personal glimpse into their lives, why not share? I wonder now, would that woman whip out her makeup at her desk at work and start touching up? Would the man pray in the break room for everyone else to see? I certainly would not sing out loud as everyone gathers for a meeting.
Look around the next time you sit in traffic. You might end up knowing those people better than you know your co-workers.